Folk-rock band, hosting NJ-based NorthStar Pet Rescue
Donations matched to animal rescue
Sunday, July 29, 8 p.m.
The Wellmont Theater, 5 Seymour St.
By GWEN OREL
Everyone needs to unplug sometimes.
For some people the music and the ambiance of the renaissance is a way to reconnect with the earth, says Candice Night, lead singer of Blackmore’s Night.
When Night spoke to us on Monday, she was still reveling in a three-hour show in Long Island the night before, where she performed music for family and friends.
Her children had been in the balcony, and when her husband, Ritchie Blackmore, formerly of Deep Purple, asked for requests, six-year-old Rory shouted “Smoke on the Water!” she said.
The crowd cheered and called, “Yeah, Rory!”
It does not matter whether your ancestry comes from the Celtic world to feel a connection to the music, she said. She should know: the singer of the folk-rock band, which performs in Renaissance Faire costumes (and reserves the first three rows of every concert for those who come similarly dressed), is a Jewish woman from Long Island, born Candice Lauren Isralow.
Night said she uses her personal ancestry in the lyrics she writes. The band uses renaissance melodies from everywhere: they play the Hora onstage, and on a holiday CD, include the Hanukkah song “Ma’oz Tzur.” She wrote the song “Gone with the Wind” about her grandmother, whose Prussian home burned to the ground, and who came to America without a word of English.
Night said she never thought she’d be front and center performing: she’s the girl who took zeros in public speaking rather than get up in front of people.
“Every moment of my life has been surprising and strange,” she said with a laugh. She always knew she’d do something with music: she met her husband Richie Blackmore when she was interning at a radio station. But she never thought she’d be writing it and creating it.
For Night, “It’s a dream come true.”
FEELING A SIMPLER TIME
Some people snicker at the word “Renaissance Faire,” familiarly called a Ren Faire. Not Candice Night. “When people are laughing, they don’t know if the person standing next to them has a corset or tights in the closet. It’s so interesting to watch this movement,” she said. She pointed out that every time a medieval-flavored movie comes out, whether it’s a pirate movie, or television’s “Game of Thrones,” it goes through the roof.
“Everybody finds a part of themselves they love, looking back through the veil of life,” she said. The band was founded in 1997, by Ritchie Blackmore, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist, known for his work with Deep Purple and Rainbow, and Night. Blackmore plays electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, mandola, and hurdy gurdy. Night sings and plays seven medieval woodwind instruments, including chanters and pennywhistles. Other musicians in the band include Scarlett Fiddler (violin), Earl Grey (bass/rhythm guitar), Troubadour of Aberdeen (percussion), and Bard David (keyboards/vocals). Their 11th CD, “To the Moon and Back: 20 Years and Beyond,” is a double CD with some catalogue classics, new songs and a cover of Rainbow’s “I Surrender.”
As for Ren Faires, the band performs at them and Night loves them. The faires “transport you back in time.” People are bombarded by ambient light, road rage, and can’t escape from their devices, she said, “It’s soul destroying.”
At a Ren Faire, “you can feel the grass under your feet, the wind through your hair. You can look up from your tablet at the sunset, see a field of fireflies, or a shooting star There are so many beautiful things. Crickets at evening time. There are so many beautiful miracles in front of us all the time, and people don’t see or hear them.”
ANGELS ON EARTH
One thing that Blackmore’s Night does to help people connect to the world is partner with animal rescue organizations. When Blackmore’s Night travels internationally, they often partner with large organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund. Domestically, they prefer to champion local groups. The people who do this hard work are “angels on earth,” she said.
For Sunday’s show at the Wellmont, Blackmore’s Night and the Wellmont are partnering
with NorthStar pet rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue organization founded in 2017 by Jeffrey Smith and Tammy Probst-Smith.
The Wellmont will match every donation.
NorthStar will bring rescue dogs to the show on Sunday, for audience members to meet and possibly apply to adopt.
Jeffrey Smith explained that the organization is entirely foster-based, and that most of the dogs come from Texas, where there is a sad surplus of dogs. Right now NorthStar has 68 dogs up for adoption. The breeding season is long in Texas, as it is in many Southern states, Jeffrey Smith explained. “Up here our shelters are emptier. We can provide a greater variety of dogs.”
He hopes the dogs will enjoy the music, if it is not too loud: “Whenever we have to board a dog overnight, I always put the radio on. Usually country music. Something about the cadence is calming for a dog.”
Animals, Night said, “give and never ask in return.”
Night said that she and her husband said goodbye to a 16-year-old cat recently, after returning from a tour. “We had been home less than 24 hours. He died in my husband’s arms, being petted. Ritchie said, ‘That’s how I want to go.’”
SOMETHING THAT MAKES PEOPLE FEEL GOOD
Their audience includes Ren Faire lovers, but not only, she said. “We don’t neatly fit into any genre. Promoters don’t know where to put us. When you look into the audience, you’d see people you’d never think would be sitting next to each other. A rock-and-roll, metal guy, who’s been a solid Richie fan since 1969, standing next to a woman wearing fairy wings, next to a Harley Davidson guy, next to a grandma, next to kid who’s five years old, dressed as Robin Hood.
“Our demographic is so wide. People are looking for something different, melodic, that makes them feel good. It’s not more women or more men.” Another appeal of the show is that it is family friendly. It has none of the sexuality or aggressiveness of many contemporary performers. Everyone on stage is covered up, and children can sing along.
While she loves flowy clothing, she does not wear bell sleeves at home. “They would be dragging in the kids’ food. I’d be wearing ketchup,” she said with a laugh.
But, she never feels as beautiful as when she’s onstage in renaissance garb. “I put all that stuff on, and become a deeper part of me,” she said.
The audience is very important to the band and Blackmore’s Night never plays the same set list twice.
“Even we don’t know what we’re going to do,” Night said. Richie will often hand a drink to people in the audience, when he can reach them. (In Long Island, there was an orchestra pit, so he could not.)
“My favorite thing is looking out, and seeing everybody leaving with a smile on their face. They are so full of positive energy, and it lasts for days. Even if they can just hold onto that for a moment — that’s true magic.”